Enjoying the vine on Sunday

Published 5:07 pm Friday, January 28, 2011

When we arrived in Bainbridge in 1991, my first shopping excursion was to the former Food Lion for some groceries.

It was Sunday, and going through the checkout line at the cash register, the cashier spotted two bottles of wine in my stuff. Snatching them aside, she said, “Sorry, we can’t sell wine on Sundays.”

WHAT!?!?!? I answered flabbergasted, having just moved here from Florida, where all vices are legal even on Sunday.

Email newsletter signup

This new Georgia resident discovered that Sunday beer and wine sales were a “no no” then and remains a “no no” today.

Guess what?

That ancient blue law soon may be history.

Seeking new revenues to shore up about a $2 billion tax collection shortfall, the Georgia Legislature has before it a bill to allow Sunday sales of beer and wine.

But of course, there’s a hitch.

Each county and city has to vote on it, yes or no, up or down.

Along with Connecticut and Indiana, Georgia is the last of the Sunday sales holdouts dating way back to repeal of prohibition in the 1930s.

It has been proposed many times since. Immediate past Gov. Sonny Perdue made it clear he would oppose any Sunday sales bill set upon his desk.

Our new governor, Nathan Deal, has said if the legislature passes the bill, he would not veto it.

The big grocery store chains always have promoted it, while churches and smaller mom and pop stores have opposed it.

So, now, we would have to decide if our local cities and Decatur County would place the issue before the voters for an up or down vote.

Personally, who cares? If you are going to partake of either, there’s six other buying days to squeeze it in. This stuff takes proper planning.

Not to have the right on Sunday isn’t going to make any impact on church attendance, or whether or not Sunday sales promotes alcoholism, as irresponsible adults squander grocery money for personal libations rather than buy milk for the kids.

But some folks think having the right to do so is basic America, like toting a gun. Rights are rights, and no law should abridge them. So there.

Georgia Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is co-sponsoring the bill. He expects it to pass. He called the sales ban “un-American,” and believes citizens should have the right to decide the issue.

Maybe they’ll give us a choice. Vote in beer and wine sales on Sunday, or they’ll raise taxes on the stuff. Taxes today on spirits are $3.79 a gallon, wine at $1.51 a gallon and beer $1.01.

Churches, of course, will oppose it. That’s what they do. Yet, Ray Newman, a lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention, 3,600 members strong, plans to argue against it, because that’s what he does.

And, since Gov. Perdue is no longer around to veto the bill, he believes the legislature will pass it.

How much revenue will it bring in? Nobody knows. It would depend on how many communities sign on.

So here’s where we stand. Pass the bill in the legislature, allow local Sunday sales of beer and wine and hope it brings in additional revenue, or don’t pass it or even vote it down locally, then watch taxes increase on the stuff. That’s what legislatures do.

It’s either one, unless you have other ideas on how to painlessly raise $2 billion in new taxes this year.

Try this. Get rid of all the exemptions on the sales tax, and force anybody selling anything on the Internet to charge sales taxes. Tax everything. Everything. No exceptions.

Windfall baby.

Jim Smith is a former editor of The Post-Searchlight and buys his wine on Thursday mornings. Comment on this issue by e-mail: bainbooknook@yahoo.com.